Falun Gong (fä-lōōn gōōng), also known as Falun Dafa (dä-fä), movement promoting physical and spiritual well-being that became widespread China in the 1990s. Founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi (1951?–), a former Changchun grain clerk, it combines exercise routines, said to provide focus for the body's energy, with a code of spiritual discipline, intended to foster physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Falun Gong's practices derive from qigong, traditional physical exercises related to tai chi, and from Buddhist and Taoist meditation techniques and spiritual elements. Practitioners cultivate moral precepts that stress zhen (truthfulness), shan (compassion), and ren (forbearance).
Falun Gong, which spread rapidly throughout China in the last decade of the 20th cent., was viewed as a cult by the Chinese government, which vehemently opposed the movement and condemned it in the media. In 1998, Li fled to the United States. His movement, however, remained strong in China and gained adherents through proselytization in the United States and other nations. Chinese members staged protests against government persecution, and in Apr., 1999, when the movement claimed to have roughly 70 million members in China, some 10,000 adherents gathered in a peaceful, silent protest outside Zhongnanhai, the large government and Communist party compound in Beijing. Now regarding the movement as threat to party rule, China outlawed it and arrested and imprisoned members. There also were and continue to be reports of the torture and killing of adherents; some 2,000 persons are believed to have died as a result of the persecution of the group. The systematic suppression of the Falun Gong in China remains a government policy.
See Li Hongzhi, Zhuan Falun (tr. 2000); I. Adams et al., ed., Power of the Wheel: The Falun Gong Revolution (2000); D. Schechter, Falun Gong's Challenge to China (2000); S. Spiegel, Dangerous Meditation: China's Campaign against Falungong (2002); M. H. Chang, Falun Gong: The End of Days (2004); D. Ownby, Falun Gong and the Future of China (2008).